Wednesday, August 15, 2007

So this is what the real world is like?

Every now and then I get the urge to regale you poor readers with some memory of mine from my Army days. This is one of those days. It's not often I think about those times, because truth be told, it sucked. But it's a great tool for perspective.

One of my more vivid memories is from the wonderful continent of Africa. We had been sent to bail out another worthless dictator ("but he's a benign dictator, and he likes American technology", thanks, Clinton administration) due to typical strife in that region. Of course, not one local can be trusted, so our intel was a bit sketchy at best.

Fast forward to two days of finding noone, but lots of indicators we weren't in a good place. As night fell, we got hit so hard I still can't believe it. We had a defensive position. This was a rare full company sized operation for us. About 150 of us all told. I have no idea how many attacked us, but it was a huge number.

My squad was in a good spot, as there were only two avenues of approach, so we were able to mow down anyone who came at us. Other squads and platoons weren't as lucky. Yes, our lines were overrun, and we had to watch our backs, and we fought like savages for what seemed like hours. We got word that three of us including myself were to reinforce another squad about 45 meters away.
We never were able to get there.

45 meters. We got to within maybe 30. for awhile we were able to provide supporting fire and ease the burden. But when another wave came, we had to turn back for mare ammo. I led my guys again, but this time we could see that they were being overrun. Again we were able to beat them off by taking down anyone who dared pop their heads up. Yet we still couldn't get across to them.

Finally I knew it was desperate, yet there wasn't a thing I could do. When another wave came, my stomach dropped out of me. I heard seven shots, then no more fire from their position. They had commited suicide to avoid capture with their last rounds. At that point I called in a mortar barrage on their position. The enemy apparently thought it wasn't worth the price anymore and broke off.

The rest of the night was quiet. In the morning, we found the remains of our buddies. Also, bodies were stacked around their position like cordwood, often three or four deep. Mortar rounds do a number on human flesh, and the stench was nearly unbearable. Not much was said amongst us, as we had been smacked around pretty badly. 150 started the night, 97 made it to morning. I've no idea how many we killed, but it was definitely over 150-200. It wasn't important.

Back at our base of operations, we debriefed, then had the task of figuring out how many of us were ready to go out again. We knew where we wanted to go, and wanted to be there. It wasn't long.

Deciding that carrying a big stick and using it would be the best option, we went after the headquarters of the group that kicked us so hard. As we got briefed, we were told "send a very clear and obvious message". It was personal.

I told my squad to shoot for the head and upper chest and to double tap, which is when a rifle is on semi-auto and you pull the trigger rapidly twice in a row. It ensures that any good hit will take down the enemy, and any wound would be severe.

We hit hard, and the enemy never knew what hit them. The entire camp was annhiliated. Our message was clear. There were no prisoners.

Sometimes I think back to that night. Would I be here if we'd gotten over to them? Would my buddies be here? I'll never know. I know there haven't been too many times in my life that were worse, and I hope there never are again, for anyone.

1 comment:

David Amulet said...

One hell of a story. A harrowing tale ... but we're glad you made it. I don't recall the facts of such engagements in an African country being written up in a book--yet. Any plans?

-- david